Humor Selections for April 28th, 2008

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May 1995 - April 27, 2008

I had just finished stocking the wood burning stove, turned off the downstairs' lights and was ascending the stairs with a book in hand when Miles, our youngest male cat, raced by me, making a mighty leap onto the bed, claiming prime territory for the nightly scratch he knew was coming.

A lifelong dog person, I can remember my wife's words when I announced that I wanted to make Miles, 'My cat.' "You'll never make him 'your cat'. I'm the one he first saw when he first opened his eyes, and I'm the one who feeds him. I'm 'Mom', and he'll always be my cat."

Yet as I watched Miles, in his Sphinx like stance, watch every move I made, there was no doubt in my mind, she was wrong. While our other two cats meandered about waiting for my wife, Miles watched attentively, waiting for me to open my book, the signal indicating that I was finally settled in. Moving quickly and boldly up the outside of the bed, as if to tell the others: "Stay back, this guy is all mine!" He quickly settled into the valley created by my raised chest and knees and awaited the adoration he knew would come.

Miles never makes eye contact, he never has, but he can't hide the smile that quickly develops as I methodically stroke the full length of his body, and slowly but surely, a slow, steady purr begins to develop.

If asked to describe me, 'Cat Person' would be one of the last descriptive terms those that have known me most of my life would use. While my mother was a cat-person in her youth --and still is -- my father's career as a naval officer, and the many moves that it brought, was much more suited to dogs.

From my earliest of recollections, dogs were the sole animals in my life. It was Chris, a collie mix, not my mother, who cleaned my face after every meal while I was still crawling. Panda, a classic pound mutt, was my constant companion from the time I was first allowed outside by myself. Lad, an oversized Sheltie, was our third dog and, like the first two, I saw him gently placed into his grave after a long and happy life.

While bachelorhood brought an end to my long line of 'family' dogs, it ushered in the period of 'my' dogs. For sixteen long years, PJ, my trusty Jack Russell, was always at my side. Though cats came with the marriage deal, PJ jealously guarded any approach to my person by my wife's cats.

Unlike dogs, cats prefer to pick the time to be sociable. The older the cat, the truer this fact seems to be, which explains why my wife's fully grown cats were often never to be found when I was in the house. Of course, the fact that PJ chased them didn't help much, but such is life.

My first real taste of what life as a cat person was like came after the adoption of Jordie, a juvenile coal-black Persian-something Manx. Unlike the two older cats that would stare dumbfounded as I tried to get them to play with one of the many cat toys my wife had collected over the years, Jordie relished the attention. He would spend hours leaping mightily into the air in fruitless attempts to snag the prey dangling at the end of a stick and string.

Immensely curious, nothing was safe from Jordie's prying paws. When you sat down, he was in your lap. Headed to the bathroom? He was ready for your undivided attention. He had no problem banging on the door when he wanted out, and if you were headed out, you could bet money on it he was ready to come in. For Jordie, humans were God's number one gift to 'catdom.' The fact that he had two people paying attention to him made it only better

In spite of my best efforts, however, I was still a neophyte when it came to being a cat person. Being home all day, not to mention being in charge of daily feeding, gave my wife an insurmountable edge when it came to Jordie's attention. While he liked me, he adored my wife, and there was nothing I could do to ever change that equation.

I soon resigned myself to the reality that the closest thing to a cat I could call my own would be our barn cat, Tasha. At least she would acknowledge me, although it was usually in the form of a hiss.

Then, one late spring day, a local farmer dropped by and handed me a burlap bag, at the bottom of which cowered two immature Manx kittens. Unable to part with them once they were in her hands, my wife spent the next month bottle-feeding them. As I watched my wife fuss over her new charges, I realized just how far I had yet to go in my journey to become a cat person.

Of course, my wife's doting had its intended consequences, and soon both kittens were as attached to my wife as a fly to flypaper. Miles and Squeak are small cats as cats come. Tigers, their Manx breeding gives them a slight downhill build, which might account for their great speed during their frequent 'tears' about the house.

Living close to the road, my wife chose to make the pair indoor cats. I felt sorry for the pair as they sat and watched the other three cats let out every morning, but they quickly developed there own unique indoor routines, and soon, going outside was the last thing on their mind.

Intrigued by birds, Miles spends hours defending a window-mounted bird feeder. Hidden by a mirror, Miles sits for hours, waiting for a bird to come within his imaginary reach. A quick thump to the glass sends everyone flying, and Miles, with an air of having completed a task well done, hops down for a quick bite, before the birds forget what had scared them and return to the feeder again. I'm not sure who is worse, Miles, who spend hours waiting for the perfect time to thump the glass, or me, who spends hours waiting to see him thump the glass.

Unbeknownst to me, demographics were on my side in making Miles, 'My cat'. A lap, no matter how cat friendly, can only take so many cats. Top priority on my wife's lap went always to the two original cats. Jordie, being the 'baby', had been adopted by the older two, and always had 'his' spot. 'Squeak', being female, offered no competition to the two other males, and always was welcomed. For Miles however, getting onto my wife's lap was a struggle at best.

As the youngest of three males, he was the lowest on the pecking order; as such, his options were limited at best. He could bide his time and wait for an opening or brave my Jack Russell and occupy my wide-open lap. Fortunately for Miles, PJ had long ago realized that chasing cats was more effort then it was worth, and, in his advanced age, could only manage a grunt of disgust at the sight of Miles headed in our direction.

I soon found myself mixing my attention between PJ and Miles. Hours of petting would pass as I sat and studied. When one had had enough, the other would gladly move into its place. Soon PJ, once the poster child for cat-hating Jack Russell's, and Miles, were fast friends. Outside, PJ was the sole focus of my animal affection. Once inside, however, PJ was only too happy to surrender my affection to Miles, and troop off to his bed for a long evening of undisturbed rest.

With no one to compete with, Miles quickly learned my routines, and, without skipping a beat, always took advantage of every opportunity afforded him. I like-wise, took every opportunity to encourage him. During meals I would feed him from my plate, much to the frustration of my wife. When his cries for affection from my wife went unanswered, I would reach out and scratch him.

Soon, as if on cue, he began to appear out of nowhere when I opened a book, and would quickly settle in by my side. At night, while the other cats engaged in their evening struggle for a spot next to my wife, Miles settled in alone, next to my chest. While the other cats 'disappear' when my wife goes away on business trips, Miles is ever-present. He follows every step I take from the time I walk into the house to the time I leave it.

Over the years I've heard lots of opinions for the best sound to listen to as one falls asleep. Some thinks it's the sound of leaves rustling in the wind. Others, the sound of a babbling brook. But for my money, nothing beats the sound of a purring cat, happily sleeping next to 'its' person. While to purest 'cat people', I'll never be one. To Miles, I'm as good as it gets.

Miles passed away yesterday after a year long battle with cancer.  No matter how bad he felt, he still managed to summon up a good purr whenever someone picked him up. 

Two weeks ago he began to lose his battle.  On Thursday, his last trip to the vets, we we're told the end was near. 

On Saturday Miles got to do everything he always loved to do.  Sleep in the sunshine, nap with my wife, eat chicken, sit on the counter while dinner was made, sit between us as we watch TV, and fall asleep on my wife's pillow as we turned in for the night.

While I always called him 'my cat' he never really ones. He died peacefully on the pillow of the person he loved most.

Pastor Wade Martin: Do Pets Go to Heaven

April 16th Humor Page